COVID-19 pushed a lot of our worries and anxieties onto the surface. This manifests itself in the twin phenomenon of overload and overwhelm.
Let’s start off by understanding what overload and overwhelm implies. The human mind is bombarded with 2 million bits of information every millisecond. Different colours, feelings, shapes and sounds flood our minds constantly. This leads to an overload of information, which our mind then tries to handle.
Limited Capacity of the Human Brain
Bring your focus to your toes and concentrate on how they feel. Are they inside your socks or shoes, or are they exposed as you walk bare-foot on your carpet? Until I mentioned, you had probably forgotten about your toes.
This shows how our mind generalises the data it receives. We keep deleting and distorting information to mentally break it down into a more manageable size. Our brain is typically able to process 5-9 bits of information at a time. Everything else gets generalised, deleted, or distorted.
We can only process a limited amount of information at a point in time. For instance, when you are learning to drive, you tend to focus on things like the steering wheel, mirrors, indicators, and pedals. If the person next to you keeps instructing, you just tell them to stay quiet because you are trying to concentrate. Overload and overwhelm takes place here as there is a lot going on that you are unable to handle on your own.
How to Deal with Overload and Overwhelm
One of the best strategies is to fool our brain into thinking we are in control. When you feel like your mind is going to explode, and you can’t focus, that’s when your brain alerts you that it can only handle 5-9 bits of information, whereas right now, it’s exposed to 11-12 bits.
To overcome the overload and overwhelm, trick your brain into thinking that you are in charge. The emotion of overload and overwhelm starts to reduce as you gain more control of the situation. Here are 3 simple steps to help you manage:
Step 1: Make a List
Physically jot down everything you need to achieve. Your list could have as few as 5 or as many as 100 items. Prioritise that list by assessing which tasks are more important and which will have the greatest impact. You may reorder as you keep listing.
Step 2: Re-Write
Take the top 5 items and re-write them on a different piece of paper. Prioritise the tasks. You may change the order or let it stay the same. The key to winning against overload and overwhelm is to knock over a task, that is, complete it thoroughly. For example, if your first task is brushing your teeth in the morning, do it and tick it off the list. Prioritise those that are important and those you are able to knock over quickly.
Step 3: Focus on #1
Concentrate fully on the first task before you move on to the second. This way, your subconscious mind will be tricked into believing that you are in control. Keep ticking off the tasks as you move down the list. The more we tell our brain that we are in charge, the faster it will cancel the overload and overwhelm alert.
Many people struggle with self-discipline as they attempt to prioritise tasks. This is the Shiny Magpie Syndrome, where you start one job and leave it halfway as you get distracted with another task. It is crucial to become mission-focused and task-oriented so that you finish one job before moving on to the other. Follow the 3 step-method to organise what’s going on in your mind and overcome overload and overwhelm.
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